Matt Hancock and his staff agonized for hours over whether he was breaking Covid orders by kissing his assistant and leaking news on The Telegraph show. The WhatsApp message was sent after The Sun published a picture of Mr Hancock kissing Gina Coradangelo. His spokesman said the news was “nothing new” in the publication and “absolutely not in the public interest”.
“It’s very intrusive, totally inappropriate and has been discussed endlessly,” he added. The spokesman said the public coronavirus inquiry had been given access to all news. The BBC has not seen or independently verified the news or the context in which it aired.
In another exchange, the former health secretary criticized the eat out scheme, writing it was “causing problems” in areas with high rates of Covid cases. The latest 41-hour WhatsApp exchange details how the former health minister and Ms Cora d’Angelo hesitated to reveal the truth.
According to The Sun, Mr Hancock and Ms Coradangelo were photographed at the Department of Health on May 6, 2021, when they were married with three children. Their link sparked intense outrage as it suggested Mr Hancock had breached his own lockdown restrictions to stop the spread of coronavirus. While waiting for the photos to be released, he texted a special counsel asking: “How bad are these photos?”
Responding to a video of the former aide obtained by him and The Sun, Mr Hancock then said: “My God. I’m not sure how newsworthy this is, I can’t say it looks interesting.” Mr Corker asked his then special adviser, Damon Poole, to “focus on appointing Ms Cora d’Angelo to continue”.
Ms Colatangelo worked as a paid consultant to the government, when she was a non-executive director of the Department of Health and Social Care. The then health minister also asked another minister if he could stress that “there was no breach of the rules”.
Mr Poole asked Mr Hancock and Ms Colatangelo to think “very seriously” about whether they might have broken Covid rules. Referring to the social distancing rules of 1m distances when 2m would not be possible to keep 1m distances from others, Mr Hancock said: “I can’t think of anything, to be honest, other than the obvious over 1m.”
He added: “The worst thing they can do is ‘be kissed before hugging is legalized’.” But then Mr Hancock asked his advisers to clarify the exact rules for when the photo was taken. The two then exchanged plans on how to respond to media coverage. That ranged from acknowledging that he “broke social distancing rules” – Matt Hancock said he didn’t think it was possible, adding “I think I was just breaking clinical advice” – to stating that “no rules were broken” .
In one exchange, Matt Hancock cited social distancing guidelines for workers at the time, saying workers should “adhere to social distancing guidelines as much as possible,” to which his adviser replied: “Yes, but it’s possible. Clearly.” Not in the picture.” In another published exchange, Matt Hancock sought advice from former prime minister George Osborne that he should release a video statement announcing his resignation.
Mr Osborne said it was “fine” but suggested he might “want to include the apology you wrote to your loved ones in your letter”. He eventually resigned over the incident and posted a video on his Twitter page.